Sparks-Silver Stars Preview

The Associated Press

If they hope to secure the top seed in the West Conference, the Los Angeles Sparks will likely have to get back to winning on the road.

The Sparks begin a key four-game road swing Saturday night when they visit the San Antonio Silver Stars, who will try to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

Los Angeles (20-8) is one game behind Minnesota for first place in the West following Tuesday's 91-78 win over visiting Connecticut and Minnesota's victory over New York.

Candace Parker had 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds, Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Lindsey Harding added 18 points to lead the Sparks.

"I'm starting out in the point guard," said Harding after her highest scoring total since a season-high 22 on June 23. "I've got to be aggressive to be successful, and hopefully the team will follow that lead.''

Parker has certainly been aggressive of late, totaling 54 points on 22-of-40 shooting with 17 rebounds and 16 assists in her last two games. The WNBA All-Star Game MVP also had a memorable performance with 27 points and 20 rebounds - the 13th 20-20 game in league history - go for naught in an 83-78 loss at San Antonio on June 1.

Los Angeles, which has the most home wins in the WNBA at 13-2, has won seven of nine road games but had its four-game run there snapped Aug. 20 in a 77-57 defeat at Seattle. Parker was held to nine points on 4-of-10 shooting in that defeat and has averaged 11.3 her last four road games, compared to 22.8 per game in her last five at home.

The Silver Stars (11-18) overcame Parker's effort in June with Shenise Johnson scoring a season-high 19 points and Danielle Robinson adding 18. San Antonio, which trails fourth-place Seattle by four games with five remaining, kept its faint playoff hopes alive with Friday's 74-65 win at Tulsa.

Jia Perkins led the way with 19 points and Johnson contributed 13 as the Silver Stars eliminated the Shock from the playoff race. Even with a victory in this game, San Antonio itself would be eliminated if Seattle defeats Minnesota.

While All-Star Sophia Young has missed the entire season due to injury and fellow All-Star Becky Hammon sidelined all but one game, Robinson's status is uncertain after missing the past four contests with a knee injury.

"This team has fought through a lot this season with injuries and adversity," coach Dan Hughes said. "Our record is very deceiving of the type of team this is.''

In addition to Parker, Hughes' club will have to contend with fellow All-Star Ogwumike. The forward had season highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds in a 93-66 home win July 6 in the most recent meeting between the teams.

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